Saturday, February 3, 2007

No Need for Rehab

I'm not a perfect person. Far from it. But I am a good person.

Still, friends are often surprised when I tell them I went though a little phase of shoplifting when I was younger.

The loot I was after was mainly cosmetics. I was coming of age and bedazzled by all the pretty colors and packages and products. I still am.

But back then, I wanted to try them all, possess them all. Of course, that would be expensive.

Now, shoplifting is usually not about fulfilling a real need. I imagine for some, stealing food is about feeding your kids when you have no money. That's about survival. I can almost excuse that.

But for most people, shoplifting is psychological. It fills a void. I've read that shoplifting is often linked to depression. I know I struggled with those feelings as a kid so I'm sure it had to do with that, and maybe even provided some excitement. After all, it's also classified as an impulse disorder, and for me it was a fix.

I'd do it, get a high, then ultimately feel worse. Guilty. Disgusted. I'd often have to rid myself of the objects just to get some relief. I didn't do this that often, but even once was too much.

I'll never forget one time at the local drugstore when I was around 12 or 13. I was out with my mother, who was at another store at the time.

As I eyed the goods, I tightened the cord around my hips on my pink cotton windbreaker, zipping it about half way up so I could use it like a shopping bag. I remember thinking how ingenious this was.

Up and down the aisles I went, amazed at how easy it was to imperceptibly slip in a lipstick here, a mascara there. I was on a roll.

Then I got to the car to meet my mother.

I felt such guilt. I couldn't stand it. "What did I just do?" I thought. I had to confess.

"Mom, I took all this stuff," I wailed as I opened my jacket, revealing probably a couple dozen items. Even I was amazed at how much I had.

"Take it back right now," she told me sternly.

"I can't! I can't! Please don't make me, please don't make me," I cried.

I was mortified and could not imagine walking into that store with all this stuff to tell the manager what I'd done. It was shame more than punishment that held me back.

"Please, please just take it back for me," I begged my mother.

I was intractable.

Now you might disagree with my mother but she did walk that stuff back into that store. I don't know exactly what she told them. And I'm not sure I learned quite the same lesson had I taken it back and faced them myself.

But do know that shoplifting is a serious problem. And thank god I never had a serious problem. I did stop.

Still, I was hanging around with some bad influences for a few years. One friend and her sister practically made a sport of it.

I remember being at the Limited a couple years later with them. We were in the dressing room and they were fully planning to take an item or two. When they encouraged me to do the same, I was staunch. I would not. Could not.

"I can't," I told them. "I promised myself I'd never do it again."

And then the thought occurred to me:

"Now, if you want to take it for me…."

Okay, so I appropriated my shoplifting to them, at least that one time.

But I did get over it. And I'm lucky I never got caught.

I would never do that now. Although these days, some friends might argue I still have a wee bit of a problem. On occasion, I grab extra Sweet & Low packets from coffee shops to use at home. And I do have a thing for those individual peanut butter and cream cheese containers. I can only find them at hotels and cafeterias.

I swear.